Czech model enthusiasts get to work for Hollywood filmmakers

The club of modelers in the Moravian town of Vsetín goes back many years. Its members are exclusively men – in fact some of them claim that a woman would never have the patience to spend hundreds of hours gluing together tiny components in order to make a perfect replica of a plane, train or boat. Recently they had been producing and selling battery-powered airplane models that attracted kids from far and wide but they never dreamed that one day their hobby would lead them to make bigger and better things for Hollywood filmmakers.

It all started with an unexpected call from the Barrandov film studios in Prague. Ivo Rušák – recalls taking the call that was to change their lives.

“They said to me - if you make perfect replicas of aircraft, how about making a perfect life-size replica of a veteran plane for one of our films?

After an excited debate the club accepted an offer to create several replicas of a pilot’s cabin for a German film called Red Baron which is due to premiere in the spring of this year. Vítězslav Klimák, who is a retired pilot, says they got six weeks to do the job and were ready in five.

“Of course it is quite a different thing to create a control panel that’s twenty centimeters wide and a control panel to fit into a real plane. And it can’t all be glued together either so we use professional carpenters and electricians for some of the parts but in the end we put it all together in our work-shop. The biggest challenge is the production technology because designers in the 1930s worked differently from us today. Creating a special mould would have been too expensive so we had to find a compromise between hand-made and serial production.”

News of their skills spread in the film world and the club has now got a new order from Hollywood filmmakers who are shooting a film about Amelia Erhard the first woman aviator to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic in 1928. The Vsetín club of modelers has been asked to re-create the cockpit of her plane. Vitezslav Klimák explains what’s involved:

“Of course there are a few veterans from the ‘30s in various museums and one or two of those planes are airworthy but their cabins have been modernized. Of course the film crew needs an authentic-looking cockpit in a plane that is capable of flight. And that’s where we come in. As a pilot and design engineer I know what needs to be done. It is the kind of thing I dreamed of doing one day.”

The Vsetín club says that the commission from Hollywood is a big challenge but having been given the opportunity they are determined to produce a replica that Erhard herself might mistake for the real thing.